Network Rail procurement boss Ian Ballantine has told Civils 2007 that his organisation is to 'manoeuvre from being more adversarial, to developing and becoming a lot more collaborative'.
Ballentine, speaking at a technical seminar organised by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, said that the adversarial approach was no longer appropriate.
"I don't think it's a question of having to be adversarial. That doesn't deliver value; all it does is squeeze the pound notes out of people's profits."
"It's about understanding the environment that you're in, what you need, and getting the right people, incentives and processes in place to deliver.
"As a business, we at Network Rail are looking to manoeuvre from being more adversarial, to developing and becoming a lot more collaborative in our environment."
Ballentine was responding to CECA chairman Peter Andrews' call for clients to show more "openess and trust".
"I think openness and trust are two of the key guides," he said. "It needs a lot of work, and a lot of endeavour to build that level of trust, but in my opinion it is worth it."
But Andrews admitted there can be great difficulties in implementing such major changes.
"One of the things you do see from Network Rail is a very coordinated approach from the top of the business, and I think an approach that's based on all the right values, not only for Network Rail, but for most of the time for the supply chain.
"But bringing that cultural change right down through the business, however keen you are at the top, is actually quite difficult. People have been steeped in the old systems for years."
Ballentine agreed, and remained cautious on progress: "There are things that we are going to put in place first before we just suddenly say we are now being collaborative. We're going down that route in a way that makes sure that we maintain control at all times and can demonstrate to the board that we and the supply chain are delivering best value."